The Lady Is a Tramp: Death to the Size Queen Myth

Andrea Plaid
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I took a free workshop on the female condom the other day. I was surrounded by a variety of counseIors: at-risk youth, drug, women’s health, and others. I guess I should have seen it crouching in the corners of the workshop. It lurked in a chat I had with another woman about my recent post on Trojan Magnums and its trading on the Big Black Penis stereotype. She instantly defended said stereotype, almost to the point that she wouldn’t let me finish describing my post.

Then it sprang forth…unfortunately from the same woman defending the above-mentioned cliché.

“[The female condom] is only 6.5 inches,” she complained. “How is this going to accommodate an 8-inch penis?”

The facilitator said that the female condom is rather strong and has some elasticity. Also, she added, different self-identified women enjoy different sizes, which the condom can definitely accommodate.

It was another participant who wrestled the meme down. At least for that moment.

“Medically speaking, the vagina is, on average, about 6 inches long. When aroused the cervix can go up, which lengthens the vagina to about seven inches. A man longer physically than that can’t put his whole penis in, anyway.” (Go Ask Alice offers a similar explanation.)

The questioner became quiet, and the size issue scurried away—at least for that moment.

The equivalent of the Big Dick Braggart (BDB) is the Size Queen (SQ). This particular character claims that not only is bigger better, but that the Size Queen is a bigger and better person because s/he can “handle it,” whether it’s a 10-inch penis or a penis-shaped sex toy. If someone doesn’t like ‘em big…well, there’s just something wrong with that person, yes? And anything impeding the Size Queen from another opportunity to continue that claim—such as a female condom—well, there’s just something wrong with that product, yes?

Even though sexperts and other sexual-health advocates continue to state that some people of various gender identities may prefer different-sized dicks, it is cold comfort when the mass media loops the same message, “enormous is ecstatic,” again and again. Yes, some of us may dislike Sex and the City and really can’t stand Samantha, but part of her popularity is due to the fact that she’s the reigning pop-culture queen of the Size Queens.

And, like the Big Dick Braggart, the Size Queen is striped with some ugly racialized stereotypes, namely that the only type such a person would want to have sex with is—you guessed it—a black man. I have heard some self-identified women and men of different races imply their SQ status by saying that they “only sleep with black men” because they’re “so big”…and, as my mom would say, the end of that sentence is “and I’m big enough to manage it.” Woe to the black man who’s not “hung” because that could mean his SQ partner judging him as “not black enough.”

The flip side of this is the assumption that all self-identified black women *must* be SQs because all of us must have had (or must need) black men for lovers, and, thanks to the Big Black Penis myth, wouldn’t even consider a person from another race or ethnicity–let alone another gender!–as a possible partner.

As Carmen Van Kerckhove, the departing publisher of Racialicious says, sexual stereotypes, like all stereotypes, flatten our humanity. If a person prefers certain sizes of penises, that’s cool—but that person isn’t inherently sexually cool because of that preference. To me, the meme of the Size Queen rolls over quite a few people—when the meme itself needs to be flattened for many people’s sake.

Especially not on a trucker hat.

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17 Comments Have Been Posted

Where Was Sex Ed. When i Was Young?

i wish i'd had sex education when i was young. As far as i know it wasn't available. i learned next to nothing from my parents, friends, or anyone else. i still feel somewhat ignorant with respect to many of these issues. i don't think they even had female condoms back then, but the stereotypes were there, naturally. As i got older i was exposed to different kinds of myths and experiences, but the ones you cite were among them. i'm glad you're touching on the edge of some of them. i heard things like that getting tighter or looser depended on frequency of sex and the size of their partner's (whatever). There were many guys who bragged about their penis size but i later learned that some guys want humiliation in the form of ridicule of the small size of their penis. i heard stories of stretching exercises (both vaginal and anal) and a solution to being too loose. Recently I read that one could increase elasticity with gentle use, but that leaving something in reduced elasticity. What should i believe? Somewhere i still suspect that someone is trying to prove or disprove everything with studies, most of which probably lack adequate scientific controls. Can you imagine the outcry if any government entity actually funded a study of anything related to the subject of the post? If there was one would we ever hear about it? i may have to rely on Bitch Magazine to cure my ignorance (and i am NOT being sarcastic).

Amen to that.

I have to agree that an "excellent ability to follow directions" -- and its counterpart, excellent communication abilities -- are the skills to strive for in bed, whatever your gender. And while pleasure will have different components depending on who you are, who WOULDN'T want to be Pleasure or Pleasuring royalty over Size royalty?

On an less serious note, ever since I read the preview to Andrea's post, I haven't been able to forget the image of a penis "springing forth." WHY?

Body shaming women is not feminism

I won't debate with you at all the absurdity of the stereotypes associated with preferring a longer penis; I think we can all agree that's screwed up. However....

If the *average* vagina is 7 inches when aroused, is it much of a stretch that some women might have vaginas that are 8 inches or more when aroused? The *average* penis length is about 5 inches long when aroused, but we all know some are longer and others are shorter. Are we to believe that all women's vaginas are the same? I just don't think that's true. I personally don't identify as a 'size queen'; I'm a little on the small side actually. But if there are women like me, who are *smaller* than average, there must be at least a few women out there who are *larger* than average to compensate. It seems to me like we have, in western society at least, a bad history of telling women that their understanding of their own bodies is wrong whenever it contradicts the "scientific" assumptions of the times. At one point, female orgasm was a myth, any physical or mental exertion during menstruation was possibly fatal, and the uterus was capable of wandering around in the body. And now all vaginas are the same length? I would like to see some evidence of that, please.

It wouldn't surprise me if that woman went silent because she felt humiliated, not because she was "proven" wrong. After what that other participant said, the perception of the other people would have been that she was either a liar or that her genitals were freakish. Which would you like people to assume, if you were in her position? I bet she was doing her best to shrink into the shadows just then. And all because she asked a question about her birth control options? Yikes... if she's sleeping with guys who are 8"+, that's a perfectly legitimate question to ask, especially if she's there to learn about how the female condom works! She might have a terrible attitude about what her preference means, but body snarking isn't a very helpful way to break down stereotypes. It wouldn't surprise me if the SQ meme was at least partially a defense mechanism in response to this sort of shaming -- a large vagina isn't exactly the mainstream cultural ideal.

Challenging our investment in stereotypes is, though.

I think this comment brings up the fact that part of the positive stereotypes thing is that people do build positive self-esteem around them. I'm sure there are women out there who have, or perceive themselves to have, a large vagina. Perhaps they've learned to feel good about that. However, I'm not sure we should silence concerns about myths such as "Size Queens" in order to prevent them from feeling shamed if they are invested in the Size Queen mythology.
As an analogy, I think of whiteness. I'm a white woman and regularly receive compliments about my pale skin. I grew up in the 80s when being tan was The Thing, and it really has been a formative personal battle to swim against that tide to be confident about being pale. However, what good would it do for me to feel shamed if someone wants to talk about how the value of whiteness, especially female whiteness, is a socially constructed ideal and is often part of a racist narrative designed to devalue women of color? On the one hand, I'd hope that no one would interpret the care I take for my white skin as inherently racist. For me, I stay pale to do what's best for my body, and I do my level best not to buy into the idea that my pale skin is "prettier" or "more natural" than anybody else's skin. On the other hand, it's not really helpful for me to take critiques of whiteness as personal attacks when they aren't. If anything, wouldn't my potential shame around my "whiteness" in those moments really come from a realization that I was invested in a negative stereotype? Maybe that's a good kind of shame. The kind that gets ya thinkin'.

"and, as my mom would say,

"and, as my mom would say, the end of that sentence is “and I’m big enough to manage it.”

dude, i've actually heard my mom finish that sentence for someone, and it ended more like, "because you're a big ho." i've even heard her explain the concept, that a woman only "needs" a big dick because she literally has a "big ho," stretched from overuse. i think the size queen thing needs more unpacking than this article is giving it. i have always felt like "size queens" in the media were just being mocked as those funny "empowered" ladies who are really just sluts-who-won't-let-you-call-them-sluts. i have never noticed any positive associations with it, ever. anytime i've even heard someone cop to being a "size queen" it was with embarrassment.

also, saying it's a myth seems odd. it seems like a legitimate sexual preference, possibly a little masochistic in nature. i mean, i wouldn't say these ladies like it for some essentialist reason, like only big penises can fufill their mystical cavernous vaginas, which, yeah, anything that boils down to "mah vagine is totes better than yrs!" is problematic. but isn't answering that ridiculousness with, "actually, the vagina you claim to have doesn't medically exist," kind of problematic too?

Thank you. You described my

Thank you. You described my reaction upon reading this quite accurately.

I've stumbled on this much

I've stumbled on this much later but I felt that I should comment just for anyone else who might see this.
My problem with this post also is that it implies that regardless of the length, a man cannot get more than 7 inches inside a woman. I can for a fact say this is not true. Although the vagina itself may only be 6 or 7 inches on average, a longer guy who goes further in will continue on until he bumps the cervix which is why if you've had deep sex with a guy who's 8 or 9 inches, you get that uncomfortable pain in your stomach.
Also it is not all about girth solely in my opinion, a very thick, but only 3 inches long penis be satisfying to me? Hell no. But a very thin 9 incher isn't that great either but if I had to choose, personally the latter. And I prefer guys who are at least 8 for that very reason. I love that slight pain I feel when a guy reaches my cervix and I'm thin enough to be able to see my lower stomach (right above my pubic bone) move up and down with each deep thrust. It's amazing to see and I love it.

The woman's question was highly justified I think anyone with a brain who can think logically would have thought that to be a reason of concern, regardless of if she was asking to put it out there that she's a size queen or not. And why as women do we have to put each other down for admitting to prefer a larger guy for whatever reason? Men have unashamedly admitting their sexual preferences for years, big boobs, big ass, virgins only, no girl over a size 4.
Men get to like what they like, but as women we're size queens who are full of it because our vaginas are only 7 inches?? In the same right shouldn't a man be told liking big boobs or a big butt is silly because their palms are only a specific width? No one says and that and oh yeah some men have bigger hands than others!

Somehow no matter what women end up attacking each other for their sexual preferences, which at the end of the day is just that. A freaking sexual preference. Some women like bigger than average dicks, it doesn't make their vaginas loose, it doesn't make them sluts. The post and majority of responses also imply that these women are shallow and willing to put up with bad sex for the sake of a measurement. I find it hard to imagine that that is true. You assume a woman who says I like a big dick will shut down every smaller guy, she might but in this life we compromise and if a guy with 7 inches can work it, you enjoy it. Would a woman who prefers an average guy reject a bigger guy to look at the other side? I think not. You compromise. If the person is worth it to you, you learn to work it out so you're both having a good time.

more food for thought...

sexual stereotypes are so damning in relationships, and i think it's a horrible horrible thing. my boyfriend has seen one of my toys, and it's a bit on the large side, but i have only ever used it once or twice -- it's just too uncomfortable. the issue is that having the toy in the first place embarrasses him, because it's larger than he is. i certainly take issue with the idea that we are so hyper-sexed and unrealistic in our ideas about beauty and sexuality that there are people who do legitimately feel inadequate in some way. for the record, i and my bf are black and he doesn't fit the whole 'big-black-elephant penis' mold.

another part of this penis issue that few ever talk about is circumcision. not too many men are uncircumcised these days, and my boyfriend is the only partner that i've had who still has his foreskin. that, too, has proven to be something of a touchy subject for him because he thinks it's weird (and that i think it is, as well). i find it so interesting (and heartbreaking) that to be untouched, the way you came into this world, is a shameful matter. i would like to think that at some point that more comprehensive sex ed can be taught in this country.

Circumcision and Opinions

I am also uncircumcised and I have not had many comments at all about it from partners, but I have generally slept with women who have a more liberal mindset and are not religious, so perhaps that has something to do with it? I am a west coast white man, born and raised, which might make a difference as well?

I am proud and happy that my mom had the willpower to stand up against the pressures I am sure she faced to have me undergo a procedure that often involves strapping a baby down like a death row inmate. On a more visceral level, I am convinced that part of the great pleasure I derive from sex is due to my possession of a foreskin, which makes the head of my penis much more sensitive that it would otherwise be.

So the next time your boyfriend feels bad about his foreskin, ask him if he would prefer less <b>sensation</b> and the next time you are feeling weird about it, ask yourself if you would prefer him to be less responsive to your touch.

As for the toy issue, many of us, men and women, often have moments of sexual vulnerability where we wonder if we are pleasing our partner(s). For men, with how much emphasis society places on The Power of The Penis, I think we can see a toy, whether it is as big as "us", smaller or just includes things our equipment, au natural, never can (whirling beads, neon colors, platinum...) and sometimes feel a sharp prick of insecurity:
<li>Toy is bigger: "Has she been lying to me all this time about my size being enough?"</li>
<li>Toy is smaller: "Why does she need that as well? Am I not giving her enough orgasms?"</li>
<li>Toy has whirly bits/is a Hitachi Magic Wand ect: "Is she going to get addicted to this thing, which *must* give her better orgasms than me every time?"</li>

Though I think much of that insecurity would vanish if most men could fully wrap their brains around the idea that yes, women also have a need to masturbate, usually have less "me" time and often have warped society-induced hangups about touching themselves, all issues that toys can help overcome. After all, as you said yourself, you have only used it a few times, which would imply that most of the time, your boyfriend is the object of your lust. As Dan Savage himself might say, your boyfriend should be happy that you are expressing your perfectly normal sexual curiosity with an inanimate object, rather than seeking out "the real thing" on the side.

It would be my guess that it is a little harder for women to feel insecure about the basic men's sex toys ala blow up dolls, but I have seen some insecurity evident in the reactions some women have to things like the <a href="">REAL dolls</a>. Is it more creepy than spending a thousand plus dollars on a precious gem and metals coated vibrator? *shrugs*

Myself, I think a hand is a whole lot cheaper than a Annie W-ii Blowdroid, but I guess some guys just need a lot more help with their imagination.

Using my Monkey Brain for Fun and Money


I'm so glad that you responded to my post -- it's always great to get other opinions about this stuff. As far as the foreskin issue goes, we've been working through it, and it's been tough at times, but I think that my boyfriend is definitely becoming more comfortable and secure in the fact that his foreskin doesn't bother me one way or another. At the beginning, he thought that I found it weird or somehow unusual. Granted, he is my first partner to be uncircumcised, but it has never been something that I found uncomfortable or unappealing, and frankly I was interested to see how my sex would be different because of it (I don't know if that came through in my initial post...).

I also like that you brought up the toy issue and those insecurities that surround them. I hate the idea that women enjoying and expressing themselves sexually (through masturbation, nonetheless) is so taboo. Just because we aren't men doesn't mean we aren't human. I go to school in Ohio (where our families are); my boyfriend is stationed in North Carolina (woo Army); as you can imagine, we don't see each other too often, so that has a huge impact on our sexual relationship. That said, I always try to let him know that just because I have toys doesn't mean that I don't desire him -- quite the contrary; I have them because I DO desire him. But again, these are all things that we are open about, which I love. I suppose the real heart of the matter is communication and being able to talk about these things in a safe, nonthreatening environment, even if some of it is sometime unsettling.

I'm a lady, but I felt I should chime in...

My partners have been 50/50 on the circumcised/uncircumcised ranks. The uncircumcised guys certainly are more self conscious over it (I mean, I thought it was kind of cool). Last I read, for people in my age group, 50/50 was normal because circumcision rates have plummetted. But I'm glad you're bringing it up, because that definitely fits in the discourse of what is "normal" and that is a more dangerous game to play than size, in that it involves blood and surgery on people too young to have a say.

FYI: More Penis Reading!

Thanks so much for this post. I'm so glad someone has voiced concerns over an issue that I have long been wary about. Oh and to add to the annoyance is the fact that whenever I bring this up, someone always chimes in with, "But biologically and statistically speaking, black men ARE bigger..." argh.

Just a quick note though, if anyone is interested in reading about pensis in a cultural studies/feminist studies context, Susan Bordo has written a book called, "The Male Body." She has a whole chapter devoted to pensis performance and its consequences on masculinity in our culture. I highly reccomend it.

Some interesting responses...

@Mister Panty Buns--I think we Americans have a love/hate relationship with scientific facts: we love to use them to "prove" our conjectures/opinion/sense that we're reasonable and know what the hell we're talking about and hate them when science proves us otherwise. :-) However, we in the US seem to have a singularly hateful relationship with sex ed: we act as if people knowing about sex, esp. teenagers, is tantamount to their becoming gods and, therefore beyond adult guidance/supervision/care. Of course, this isn't a fact, but it's that idea that keeps some adults from telling children about sex...and then we wonder why people are so clueless about it.

@Amanda--having had lovers of different races and ethnicities, I can most definitely say that no one group has a corner of big dicks. Reflecting on my own life, I have to say that, honestly, I liked different sizes in different times in my life due to physical comfort. :shrug:

@jordanb--your response to Anonymous is far more eloquent than I would've written. Thanks for that!

@krys and JS--thanks so much for those extra nuggets of thoughts/reading!

@TheBadAssMuppet--oh noze! I meant the myth of the Size Queen springing forth, not an image of a penis. Sorry about that...:-)

Excellent analysis. I really

Excellent analysis. I really liked your thoughts about the ways in which these myths have been used against Black women and their genitals. I've tried to articulate similar sentiments, but found I wasn't always able to find the language to express my frustration. Your piece really clarified all the stuff swirling around my brain as it relates to SQs and such.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Racist stereotypes

A typical stereotype i cant stand is that "Asians are smaller" Im not a SQ but i do prefer built man ( its not the size its how you use it) my Ex-boyfriend was asian we went out for four years and i enjoyed our sex. His size was a wopping 9. So for those that believe that, theres no "perminit" size for each races. We have what we'r born with. Same can be said with women about their breasts.

Somehow I doubt that very

Somehow I doubt that very much, but if you say so. I had a few asian boyfriends at uni and even though they got a 10 for effort their sizes were between 3-5 inches, the biggest being a Vietnamese guy with 6"(of which he was very proud! good for him). The biggest I've ever had or seen belonged to a German guy I dated for a little while...he had a 12" dick, at first I was in awe, it was exciting too look at and bigger than any vibrator I've ever had, but after the novelty wore off we decided to call it a day, I couldn't understand him because of his strong accent and the vaginal sex was unbearable...usually I can take about 8" but there would still be a hand-full left over and he was quite clumsy and had never heard of foreplay. Finally the best sex I ever had was with a Fijian bartender at the shangri-la in Fiji...He was 6ft4, muscular, bubble butt and had between 8-9 inches which is a perfect for my vag, but his home run swing was the way he made me I was the only girl in the room...and in bed he was well trained to say the least...he would give me such intense orgasms again and again before he would cum. That was in 2006 and to this day I haven't had a lover who even comes close in comparison. *sigh* I miss Fiji, I am now engaged and we could have our honeymoon in Fiji...but I better not...just in case. :P

I think that is ridiculous to

I think that is ridiculous to assume that all size queens are conceited and judgemental and only prefer to racially stereotype. I am a very shy lady and very modest, I have never said or thought to myself 'gee that person doesn't like large dicks, there MUST be something wrong with them!' I have never chosen a partner based on their race, either. I am incredibly ecstatic when I find a male I can click with that is also well endowed, that is my ideal partner. I am certainly ashamed that you would lump all size aficionados into the humiliating, degrading, conceited category :/

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